Word for the Week
Short reflections on Bible passages, with a frontline focus...
In this blog series, Sam and Sara Hargreaves, co-authors of LICC’s Whole Life Worship resource, explore how the worship we offer in church can shape the way we worship in all the variety of our lives – and how churches can grow a culture that equips people to act, speak, and work in worship, every day of the week.
‘Should I stay, or should I go?’, sang The Clash. Christians will often ask similar questions about worship – ‘Is it more important to stay in the church service: singing songs, saying prayers, celebrating communion… or should we go and worship God in our workplaces, our homes and streets?’ As common as these tensions are, splitting them apart makes about as much sense as asking someone whether they want to breathe in, or breathe out.
The New Testament is pretty clear that both ‘staying’ and ‘going’ to worship are vital, distinct and interconnected spheres. In our book Whole Life Worship we call these ‘gathered’ and ‘scattered’ worship. The ‘gathered’ worship sphere is like the inhale of breathing. You meet together with other Christians, often in a church building, gathering around praise and intercession, teaching and sacrament. You receive from God and recommit yourself to him, in community and fellowship. This is an indispensable part of our Christian lives.
However, equally important is the ‘scattered’ worship sphere. This is like the exhale, when we leave the sanctuary and are sent to our frontlines – the ordinary places where we regularly spend time with thos who don’t follow Jesus. It’s the worship we offer through things like our creative gifts, our practical service, the ways we spend our money and relate to our neighbours. It’s glorifying God and pointing other people towards him through our attitudes, actions, and words.
We can see both of these spheres spelled out in the letter to the Hebrews:
‘Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise – the fruit of lips that openly profess his name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.’ (Hebrews 13:15–16)
We profess God’s name in songs and prayers when we gather. We also do good and share with others when we’re scattered, and God receives both kinds of worship as a sacrifice of praise. As The Message version paraphrases verse 16: ‘God takes particular pleasure in acts of worship—a different kind of ‘sacrifice’—that take place in kitchen and workplace and on the streets.’
The heart of Whole Life Worship is not only that we recognise these two spheres, but that we see them as interdependent. We ought to be breathing in and breathing out as a natural cycle of healthy discipleship. Scattered worship should not exist without gathered worship, and vice versa. This means that when we gather, our church services should make reference to the lives that we’ve been living the past six days. They should acknowledge the efforts, struggles and and joys of how people have been worshipping in their homes, schools, streets and workplaces.
At the same time, this gathered worship should also empower and send us out to our scattered sphere. Prayers, songs, teaching and encouragement from Sunday should remain with us on Monday, reminding us who we are truly serving in our places of influence. The different arenas of worship ought to flow naturally into each other in a virtuous circle.
It is easy to believe this in theory, but can be difficult to make reality, especially given some of the very compartmentalised ways we have worshipped God in the past. That’s why we’ve provided these Whole Life Worship resources to help you heal the split between Sunday’s gathering and Monday’s frontline.
Sam and Sarah Hargreaves